“At 18, I didn’t think about the Olympics or a New York City marathon title,” said Gebremariam, who finished fourth in the 5,000 meters at the 2004 Athens Games and eighth in the 10,000 at the London Games. “When we saw those Olympic athletes in the media, on TV, it seemed very far away. Those people were coming from God, like Haile Gebrselassie and Derartu Tulu. I couldn’t imagine that. When I was coming from my village of Hawzien, there were no famous athletes from there.”
When the food comes to the table, Gebremariam explains that he cannot eat much with the Boston Marathon four days away, especially not injera which can upset his stomach. In Addis Ababa, he treats himself to traditional Ethiopian foot and injera only on Sundays when there is no second workout scheduled for the afternoon. Still, barely 24 hours removed from his Addis Ababa to Boston trip, Gebremariam cannot resist a taste of home.
He pinches a few vegetables between some injera, smiles sheepishly, and eats. It is the smallest of lapses in an otherwise very disciplined routine.
Gebremariam trains on the outskirts of Addis Ababa with a group of elite Ethiopians, including his wife. The Ethiopian capital sits an elevation of 7,500 feet, perfect for high-altitude marathon training. For his Boston buildup, Gebremariam trained twice a day except for Sundays and amassed a weekly total of 120 to 125 miles. He did one track session per week and one speed session on a forest path. His long runs last two hours, though he wouldn’t reveal the pace of those runs.
“His training has been good, but they play their cards close to their chest, even with me,” said Wetmore. “But Gebre’s a guy who, even if he’s a little bit undertrained, he’ll be very, very good. The key to him is to stay healthy. If he shows up on the line healthy and in good shape, he always a chance. And he’s healthy now.”
Gebremariam believes a top-three finish is possible, but notes that the 2013 Boston Marathon has “a lot of tough competition.” He does not have a specific strategy planned, but will react to the pace. If the race is fast from the start, he will follow. If it is slow, he will push the other runners. But he adds “this is not fixed.”
“Running the marathon is risky,” says Gebremariam. “But you have time to think about how far you can get in front of people and how you can increase your speed. I love the marathon. If you run a good marathon, you are revered.”
Gebremariam hopes that is the case when he finishes Boston.
Shira Springer can be reached at email@example.com.